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Windmill boat on river, no wind

  1. Aug 24, 2005 #1
    Assume a windmill boat is drifting down a fast flowing river during windless conditions. It uses its relative wind to outrun the speed of the river. What is the correct way to describe this situation in terms of energy and power? Can we say that its energy is derived from the river but its power is derived from its relative wind? Would that be correct terminology? If not, what?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2005 #2
    Wouldent the windmill act as a big drag force and slow the boat down relative to the river?
  4. Aug 25, 2005 #3
    A windmill boat uses a windmill to spin a water propeller. They can sail directly into the wind. So in this case, if we use the river as the frame of reference, the windmill boat is sailing normally relative to the river and sail down river faster than the river. The speed will be no more than about half the speed of the river. So from the shoreline frame of reference, the windmill boat will be seen to sail down river at the speed of the river plus roughly half the speed of the river.
  5. Aug 26, 2005 #4
    I dont see how the windmill would make the boat go any faster than if it had no windmill. The force applied to the windmill would equal the force the propeller applies to the water, no? So wouldnt these equal but opposite forces cancel eachother out?
  6. Aug 26, 2005 #5
    Well, I tried to do a search on windmill boats but could find none, Ill have to take your word on how they work until you can provide a link explaining it. I find that to be very neat if it does actually do what you say it does. Power is defined as the amount of work per unit time, so I dont see why you mentioned power from the sail but energy from the river. Im probably not right, but I will give this a shot. The water boat system has energy relative to the observer on the shore. Neglecting the windmill for a moment, the boat would move at the same speed as the river. So it would have the same veloctiy. Its energy would be 1/2 mv^2. Obviously, the river had to loose that same amount of energy to give the boat that additional amount of energy. Note that hull friction is not an issue here because the boat is drifting and not pushing its way through the water. Now put in the windsail. Its going to see drag from the wind resistance, and that in turn is going to turn the sail, which via a shaft and gearing system will turn a propellor. Now that amount of drag to turn the propellor must be overcome by the river too. The river is pushing the boat forwards at at-most a speed equal to the river. And if you consider the drag in turning the windmill as a constant, then that amount of work the river lost in addition would be w=F(drag)*distance. You said it would give you at most 1/2 the speed of the river, I think that would depend on how efficent the windmill is in sending its energy to the propellor. Now im really not sure what im talking about and im just making alot of simplified guesses. Another thing to consider is that the windmill cant create energy outa no where. So I would think that the boat would speed up, slow down, speed up over and over again, because the river will cause the windmill to turn and create a small amount of thrust for a small peroid of time. But once the boat sails faster than the river, the river can no longer give it any more push that the speed with which the river flows. So now that drag from the windmill cant be compensated by the river, and it will slow down to the rivers speed again, and the process will repeat. Also, once the boats going faster than the river, the water relative to the boat has to be pushed out of the way to go faster than the rivers current, its not drifting along with the same velcoity as the river, so the hull will cause additional drag that the windmill propellor has to overcome to hold its faster than river speed. But I dont think the air can give any energy to the boat, if the air is STILL, then there is no energy in it to give up in the first place, it can only steal energy away when something moving through it creates turbulence. Im done guessing, hopefully someone smart can supply a real anwser now :-)
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2005
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